Julie Berry’s The Amaranth Enchantment is a lovely novel that I happened upon quite by accident. It is a debut book in the vein of writers such as Gail Carson Levine, Donna Jo Napoli, or Shanno Hale. I’m always excited to happen upon a debut book without any help. It’s fun to “discover” a new author, especially one writing something so exquisite in one of your favorite genres. That said, I do home Ms. Berry gets some buzz from librarians and other authors as this in one Enchantment begging for wider recognition!
The Amaranth Enchantment is a sort of fairy tale novel. If there were a formula for such things I would say that it is one part Cinderella, one part Prince and the Pauper and the rest is wonderfully new. In other words, there is just enough in the way of familiar fairy tale trappings to help the reader feel comfortable as they are slip into a brand new world.
The prologue introduces young Lucinda, the “princess” of our story. As a child her world is a glittering combination of loving parents and grand affairs. The little girl thinks nothing is better than the treat of watching her mother prepare for a ball…a ball from which her parents never return. When next we see Lucinda it is as a teenager slaving away for her wicked step-aunt. In short order a witch, a prince, a thief, tragedy and a quest come Lucinda’s way and her life as she knows it changes once again.
The Amaranth Enchantment is a whirlwind of a read. Everything seems to happen very quickly and the whole story takes place over the course of only a few days. Still, Berry manages to weave lovely flashbacks into the picture to flesh things out. She also introduces a most unlikely companion and champion for her heroine, the goat Dog, who was perhaps one of my favorite characters. Lucinda’s happy ending isn’t the typical fairy tale answer to ever after, but it is a satisfying one.
In addition to fans of fairy tale retellings by the authors I mentioned early, Enchantment should also appeal to fans of Eva Ibbotson or Noel Streatfield. The book feels a lot like the novels in that the city is almost a character of it’s own and there are plucky orphans dealing with a change in class status and romance.